It is distressing and disgusting to witness the blatant hypocrisy displayed by Rep. Heather Wilson's ads taunting her support for the Medicare Reform/drug benefit Bill approved by Congress last year. That is the one which, days after its passage, we found out that the Bush administration had suppressed its own staff reports warning that the cost would be a "mere" $150 billion more than reported to Congress. This measure is a cruel hoax on one of our most vulnerable populations; the aged among us.
Rep. Wilson is well aware that prescription drug prices in the United States are the highest in the world largely because half a dozen, very large companies have a virtual monopoly on the market. Yet she supports legislation which expressly prohibits Medicare from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices.
Rep. Wilson knows that drug manufacturers in other countries are just as safe as the ones produced in the United States, particularly since in many instances they are the very same multinational pharmaceutical companies who operate out of Canada and Europe. (Or is she implying that in those countries they are knowingly jeopardizing the welfare of their own people?) Yet Rep. Wilson supports the Bush administration's efforts to block states, municipalities and retailers from bulk purchasing prescription drugs in Canada and passing the substantial savings on to health plan participants and consumers.
Rep. Wilson knows that when the Medicare Reform Act is fully implemented in 2006, under the guise of "health plan choice," it will expose seniors to potential abuse from private, for-profit health care organizations and insurance companies. Just look at what is happening with the first phrase, the "drug benefit card program"; a confusing maze of some 70 different programs, with no minimum standards, no prescreening process, no monitoring and evaluation. A situation made to order for abuse!
So, as her television ad suggests, we should really thank Rep. Wilson for helping to set up this huge tax payer "cash cow" and insuring profits for her friends and campaign contributors; the pharmaceutical industry, the HMOs and the insurance companies.
Marisa Bertoletti Albuquerque
High on the Hog
You really did go whole hog with the last issue [“Eating In,” Sept. 2-8]! I can only have compassion for meat-lovers, because I was born and raised in Iowa, where there are more hogs than people. I became a vegetarian for health, spiritual and environmental reasons, and because my husband is a fantastic vegetarian cook. Bacon was the last thing I gave up. I lived in Portland, Ore. at the time, and at restaurants I would confuse the staff by ordering gardenburgers with bacon. (In Portland, where the gardenburger was invented, you can get them at most restaurants, even at local fast food chains, as well as Marionberry milkshakes, but that's another story. ... )
A fact about pork that you may already know: "high on the hog" means eating better pork than bacon (can you imagine?) because bacon is cut from the belly (hence the fat) and is the cheapest cut. Did you also know that sadly, hog farms are a major environmental hazard in the Midwest? When I was a kid in the '70s, the smell of pig shit from a small family-run hog farm was the sweet smell of the country. Now most of the family farms have given way to large corporate hog operations emitting poisonous fumes, the largest of which (I can't remember where) produces more solid waste than the city of Los Angeles. Phew! But my beef is more with corporate farming than with consumers who are less evolved than I (no offense).
Thanks for offering us vegetarians some information here and there about restaurants that cater to us; I know we're a small minority of your readership.
Dianne Parish Albuquerque
Without cancer from air pollution, what would the cancer researchers do? Did you know that neurologists depend on weird head injuries to learn more about the human brain? Bicycles just can't compete with cars when it comes to weird head injuries. Traffic jams, asthma and obesity caused by cars really stimulate the economy. If two lovers walk along the edge of a meadow barefoot picking wild berries, they are contributing nothing to the GNP!
The point is that, as we contemplate the gradual restructuring of our world away from a petroleum based economy, we can be scared. If the car is our Pharaoh and the highways our cathedrals then the prospect of change feels apocalyptic. Cars are less sacred to me than the biosphere, which the petroleum based economy is slowly killing. I cherish my health, maintained by bicycling and eating homegrown vegetables. To me, the eventual decline of petroleum is an opportunity to live in a more beautiful, secure, friendly and democratic world. I am not scared.
Technology fosters change. The impact of that change depends on our freedom, both as individuals and as a society, to reject technology we don't like, and adopt technology we like. Newcomben and Watt did not develop the steam engine to further the cause of animal rights for horses. It was not a project to alleviate the horse shit crisis in London, which employed an army of shovelers. Was steam power a conspiracy to sabotage the industry of incomparably beautiful Thames Barges which sailed gracefully down that river every morning loaded to the bottom of their giant spritsails with hay for London's horses? Just as steam created as many problems as it solved, the solar economy will some day have its own problems no less daunting than acid rain, global warming, asthma and obesity. Maybe people adjusting their solar panels will fall from the roof and sustain weird head injuries.
New technology will be introduced and old technology rediscovered. Bicycles, electric hybrid cars, light rail, biodiesel, carpools, timeshared pickup trucks, donkey carts, canals, footpaths, cybercommuting and, hopefully, Thames Barges may all play a role in our transportation future. I don't trust anyone who claims there is a single solution we should all be forced to adopt (tyranny), nor those who claim I can have my French fries and my drive thru too (complacency). I hope we are free to choose technology we think is beautiful, affordable and life affirming, and I'll take bicycles and clotheslines.
Lu Yoder Albuquerque
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